Law School Case Brief
Meinrath v. Singer Co. - 87 F.R.D. 422 (S.D.N.Y. 1980)
Where the alleged breach of contract consists only of a failure to pay money, remedy for the breach is limited to the principal owed plus damages in the form of interest at the prevailing legal rate.
Leopold Meinrath is a Belgian entrepreneur engaged in the marketing and distribution of computers and computer-related products, principally in the Benelux countries and France. He commenced a suit to recover payments of "bonus compensation" against The Singer Company allegedly due under an Agreement of Purchase and Sale. The Agreement comprised of a bonus compensation agreement, by which Singer agreed to pay to Meinrath commissions, ranging from a minimum of $220,000 to a maximum of $720,000, for orders booked for the sale or lease of the computers. In three claims for damages, he claimed that as of the date of the Agreement he "had consummated or was in the process of consummating" enough sales to entitle him to receive the maximum amount of bonus compensation of $720,000 under the contract, he is entitled to an additional $155,000, representing the "present-day American currency equivalent of the number of additional Belgian francs based upon the dramatic decline of the dollar vis-a-vis the Belgian franc, and consequential damages in the amount of U.S. $770,000. Defendant raised eight affirmative defenses, asserted two counterclaims, and moved for summary judgment on the last two damage claims. Plaintiff cross-moved to strike the affirmative defenses and for summary judgment on the counterclaims.
Was Meinrath entitled to damages based on the agreement?
The court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment on the third damage claim of consequential damages because plaintiff's consequential loss was too remote from the main injury to be compensable and too speculative to be ascertainable. The court dismissed the second claim for the loss suffered by reason of the dollar's devaluation between the time the contract was breached and the present because the record did not support the contention that plaintiff had a right to payment in a specific foreign currency and because currency devaluation was not a proper item of damage in a contract dispute. The court struck three affirmative defenses that were rendered moot by its other rulings and denied plaintiff's motion to strike the remaining defenses. The court denied plaintiff's summary judgment motion on the first counterclaim for the return of any payment not due under the agreement because it raised material factual issues. The court dismissed the second counterclaim for money allegedly owed by plaintiff's company because it was entirely distinct and separable from the main claim.
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